TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon winner Hiboo steps up

disrupt

Hackathon winners sometimes flatter to deceive, but Hiboo, the messaging company that won the 2014 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in London, has launched its first completed product in the App Store.

Available since the end of January, its messaging app lets users see what their friends are typing while they’re typing, which the company says means they can communicate at the ‘speed of thought’. It also means that friends can’t edit their thoughts; you can see every word. It’s the end of ellipsis as we knew it.

In 2014, Hiboo won out of a field of more than 750 developers who took part in the TechCrunch hackathon. The beta version was launched at the Dublin Websummit in Nov 2015 and is now available for download. Its launch comes at a time when the messaging industry is becoming more niche and private (if reading through your friends’ thoughts can be described as private).

Other companies such as Palringo concentrate on games as a way of engaging their customer base while WeChat, Line, Kik, KakaoTalk, Reel Messenger and Wire are all interesting chat networks that are at various stages of development.

Hiboo is the newcomer on the block that will attempt to build user acquisition as quickly as possible and, like the companies mentioned above, will then leverage that user base to offer other integrated services. It will be interesting to see if they can do it; but the opposition is large and smart, it won’t be easy.

Chinese company launches £500 million London fund

chinese

Chinese technology and investment group Cocoon Networks is launching a £500 million ($720 million) London-based venture capital fund aimed at investing in UK and European tech startups.

Cocoon Networks, with the backing of China Equity Group, was one of the first investors in to Baidu, the ‘Chinese Google’, and Hanxin Capital will invest in tech companies whose products and services show potential for growth in the Chinese market.

The fund will invest in tech companies across a wide range of sectors including fintech, biotech, medical devices and the UK’s creative tech industries. Companies looking to expand into China will also be offered assistance in navigating Chinese legislation and doing business there.

As part of a wider investment, Cocoon Networks, in partnership with University College London, is also setting up the capital’s biggest incubator space, a 70,000 sq ft building situated in the heart of Shoreditch. Cocoon says it will not only be an incubating space for technology companies but it will also work with some of London’s universities to attract talent, offer accelerator programmes and co-working spaces.

John Zai, Founder and CEO, Cocoon Networks said: “The fund and incubator programme will bring awareness for more Chinese investors to get into London’s booming technology sector. It will also help many companies grow and expand into China.”

Gordon Innes, CEO London & Partners, The Mayor of London’s promotional and economic development company, said: “This is a significant vote of confidence in the global nature of London’s tech sector and will deliver significant investment into some of the capital’s brightest and best startups.

The announcement by Cocoon Networks came as London & Partners said that it was on course to secure record investment from Chinese companies in London this financial year.

Over the past nine months, 28 Chinese companies have pledged to set up in London, with that figure expected to rise to nearer 40 by the end of March 2016.

OLIO is a food sharing app that prevents waste

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Every year, UK households throw away £700 of unwanted food. It is a sin of the highest order in a world where food is scarce and some countries are starving.

Not only do UK households throw away £12.5 billion of edible food and drink each year, but a third of all food produced globally goes uneaten. Our children will despise us for this.

Apparently, there is now an app for that… and it’s well overdue. OLIO is a free app that connects neighbours with each other, and with local shops and cafes so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. Available to download on iOS and Android, OLIO has seen 100,000 user visits in its first six months since its formation in July, 2015.

Currently the app is only available in London within the M25, but the company says it will expand throughout 2016. All people need to do is take a photo of the food offered, add a description of what it is and post details about how people can pick it up. For those who want to pick it up need to log in, browse, evaluate and collect.

If you’re after some food, just log-in and browse through what’s available as most stuff is either free or heavily discounted. You can then message whoever is offering it and find out how to go and collect it.

This sounds like a winner. The gluttonous can assuage their consciences, and the skint can eat for free. Presumably its success or not in London will be the barometer of any expansion across the UK.

UK tech firms smash venture capital funding record

london tech

The UK’s technology sector raised more than $3.6 billion in 2015, according to figures from by London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s ‘promotional’ company.

The investment represents an increase of more than 70% on the record amount raised in 2014 ($2.1 billion). London-based tech companies raised a record $2.28 billion during the period, representing a 69% increase on the $1.3 billion raised in 2014.

Analysis of VC investment by London & Partners shows that since 2010 UK tech companies have collectively raised almost $10 billion with London-based companies accounting for more than half of the total ($5.2 billion).

Mayor of London Boris Johnson MP said: “With a flourishing tech scene and one of the world’s leading financial centres, it is no surprise to see that London’s tech companies are attracting record levels of investment. Our world-class talent pool and our culture of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are helping the sector to grow from strength to strength.

London’s booming FinTech sector has also continued to secure record funding during 2015. The sector accounted for almost a quarter of all investment raised by London-based tech companies. Some of the largest FinTech deals this year include: Zopa ($106m), TransferWise ($58m) and WorldRemit ($100m).

In April 2015, London-based peer-to-peer lending company, Funding Circle secured the largest single deal of the year with a $150m funding round led by DST Global. Last year was also a strong one for the UK’s ecommerce sector, with a number of companies featuring in the top ten deals including: FarFetch ($86m), MADE.com ($60m) and Secret Escapes ($60m).

Investment into London’s technology sector has been boosted by a growing number of venture capital houses choosing to setup funds and operations in London. In October 2015 Octopus Ventures announced a $140m London based fund, joining the likes of Passion Capital, Index Ventures and Hoxton Ventures who already have a presence in London and have chosen the capital as a strategic base to invest in European technology start-ups.

A Brief History Of Seven Killings: 150-WORD BOOK REVIEW

briefA Brief History Of Seven Killings, Marlon James’ extraordinary third novel has received acclaim from the world’s literary critics and last year won the Man Booker Prize, but it is much more important than that.

Filmic (or more likely boxset-ic) from the start, it’s not surprising that HBO have already bought up the options because this book is magnificent. Like an updated War And Peace set in Kingston and New York, not St Petersburg and Moscow, there are more than enough characters to rival Tolstoy’s creations.

Based on an assassination attempt on Bob Marley when the CIA presumed Jamaica would be one of the dominoes that followed Cuba’s socialist revolution, the depiction of poverty and gangsters in Kingston shines new light on that period of history.

This book, however, is a serious commitment. Its 700 pages, some in patois and others in dreamscape, have to be respected and nurtured in a quiet space without distraction. Once that journey begins, so will yours. An awesome book.